Thursday, February 26, 2009

The View from the West Coast

Marathon is in our rear view mirror (OK boats don't really have rear view mirrors but we do have a backup camera!) and Useppa Island for the DeFever Rendezvous is in our sights...

Tammy here....

We left all our new friends in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn heading out for new adventures. While we had an awesome time there, we were all getting itchy to be on the seas again. After all it was a sense of adventure and a certain kind of wanderlust that caused us to chuck our old life in favor of cruising the high seas. So it only seemed fitting that we would set out from Marathon buddy boating with Robin and Jim Roberts on Adventures, another beautiful 49' DeFever like ours. We met them as the sun was cresting the harbor and headed north through the Moser Channel and under 7 Mile Bridge.

I like it a LOT better going underneath that bridge than over it, that's for sure!! We had an almost perfect day for steaming - the water was that unbelievable cerulean/turquoise blue that appears in every island vacation commercial and it stretched for as far as the eye could see. We crossed the Florida Bay and entered the Gulf of Mexico where there wasn't any land in sight (and yet the water was still only about 10-12 feet deep!) We saw so many dolphins I lost count - some played in our bow wake while others just graced us with their beautiful and always happy presence. We saw sea turtles as they came up for air and flipped us a flipper (pun intended), but the highlight for me at least was seeing a manta ray jump about 5 feet out of the water right in front of the boat, pirouette and dive back in the water just as gracefully as a ballerina - it was unbelievable!

We finally arrived at the Little Shark River in the Florida Everglades National Park where we planned to anchor for a couple days - we passed a couple boats at the mouth of the river and after that, we were in a scene from Deliverance. As we headed upriver, we entered this unbelievably beautiful stretch of wilderness with dense red mangrove trees lining both sides of the river.

The wildlife outnumbered us by about a million to 6 (the 4 Gypsies and the 2 Adventurers). After getting our anchors set good (the current in the river was whipping which always makes for an interesting anchor and close anchor watches), we sat topsides on the flybridge and were treated to an unbelievable show of fish jumping, dolphins blowing, pelicans feasting and ibis doing fly-bys in herds! Forget people watching - this had it beat hands down!

As the cocktail lamp was lit, the Adventurers headed over to Gypsies for cocktails and dinner in their 13 foot dinghy with 30 horse power motor (not that we have dinghy envy - much!) We had a great night of fun and camaraderie as we swapped boat stories (some of them even semi-true). Robin tried to tell us of the "polyester mites" attacking our boat, but by now we are relatively "old salts" and didn't fall for it (OK she knew we wouldn't and was really telling us a story of how she had messed with some friends of theirs) - in Morehead City, NC we had already encountered the shrimp-like critters that eat at the bottom of the boat causing quite a ruckus! After key lime pie it was time for them to head back to Adventures to rest up for a day of exploring - we were so full and content that we even forgot to check for alligators on the shores that night (probably not something we really needed to see!!)

The next day we both headed off in our dinghies to explore the Little Shark River and its various tributaries and "secret passages" - we explored for several hours but the highlight came in the first 15 minutes when we had a couple dolphins decide to play in the bow wake of our dinghy!!! One came up close enough to me that had I not been so startled I could have reached over and patted him (or her) - as it was, I recovered sufficiently to get a picture of him the second time he surfaced.

It's one thing when they play in Gypsies' wake, but to have them play with us in the dinghy when they are so close was just too cool - he dove back and forth under our boat a couple times and seemed to be having as much fun as we were. On the rest of the ride, we saw lots of pelicans, ibis and herons of all colors, but we missed the big snapping turtles that Jim and Robin saw - we took their word for it and refrained from swimming when we got back to the boat (as if the thought of alligators didn't scare us enough)!!

That evening over cocktails on the flybridge with Robin and Jim, we formed the game plan for the morning - an early departure together even though we were headed to different places the next night. During the night we had anchor adventures - we kept hearing strange noises (which in a boat is not a good thing) and finally around 2:00 am when the current was starting to turn us once again, we realized that our anchor snubber had let go from the chain. Doug and I got out on the bow with a flashlight, retrieved the snubber and proceeded to re-hook it and let out more chain. Given that the windlass and anchor chain are right over Colleen and John's stateroom, there wasn't any chance of not waking them up - so it was a Gypsies anchor party at 2:00 am - these things happen. The good news was that our anchor stuck hard and fast in the Little Shark River mud/sand despite the current!

The next morning held its own "adventure" for us - as we headed out the Little Shark River into the Gulf it was extremely low tide (OK you probably know what is coming!) But we headed out bright and early happy to lead the way and find the shallow spots for Adventures. The first time we hit bottom, we were able to back off and find a little more water (another inch or two max) but the second time we weren't so lucky as there was a sailboat anchored right in the middle of the channel entrance and a much stronger than forecast (gee there's a shocker) wind pushing us further onto the shallow spot. So we made the best of the next hour by reading until the tide started to come in and we could float free - what else are you going to do??? After about an hour we were back on the seas headed to Marco Island - when we finally hit water more than 8 feet deep, it was cause for celebration and much rejoicing on Gypsies (but it took awhile!)

And to make a great day just a little better (ha ha), the wind was whipping which kicked up the Gulf of Mexico into quite a state given how shallow it was - so we basically fought snot (a legitimate nautical term) for about 9 hours since we were often making less than 7 knots! Colleen and the boat kitties didn't have such a wonderful day. We saw lots of dolphins, sea turtles and spotted eagle rays so it wasn't a total loss but we were pretty darn glad to head into Marco late that afternoon.

As we pulled into the harbor, we saw a large sailboat capsized and sitting on its side - and we thought we had had a bad day - suddenly things were looking up!

We tied up to a little (20 foot) dock at the Snook Inn and after quite a feat of line handling spanning no less than 3 docks, we were secure and having several beverages of an alcoholic persuasion on the flybridge. Our docking feat was captured on camera by no less than 15 blue hairs who were checking out the sunset with video recorders - luckily we looked like we knew what we were doing.

Since the slip was free, we treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner at the Snook Inn - fresh seafood and coldies under heated tiki huts with live music - how could you go wrong! We couldn't and felt rejuvenated - the day had become just another boat story to tell the next time we have a cruiser party. Turns out that seems to be tonight - we are in Fort Myers Beach after a beautiful steam and there are three other DeFevers in the marina including Norm and Vicki from Tide Hiker, part of the Marathon Gang of 12! Sounds like as good a reason as any to have a party!!

Click here to see our location in the Little Shark River.

Click here to see our location in Marco Island.

Click here to see our location in Fort Myers Beach.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Return of Old Friends

It's pretty tough to top the last blog, so I won't even try...

Tammy here...

The day after we got back from Key West, Valentine's Day, Doug and I rented a car and headed off to the Miami Boat Show - romantic huh? Heh, we all celebrate in our own way - Colleen and John rented a car and headed to Colleen's parents house in Pompano for a visit so we were looking pretty good! Despite my having come down with the flu, we spent hours walking around the Boat Show and saw some really cool new gear!! For cruisers, it was like being a little kid in a candy store so we had a ball! Since we had the car we did some provisioning in Miami on the way home and stopped for take-out Chinese food to have back on Gypsies - Chinese food and a bottle of red wine - my idea of heaven and a great Valentine's Day!!

On Monday the other gypsies returned home shortly before our friends Brett and Jill arrived fresh from a trip to Key West - what, didn't everybody get to see the private Buffett concert at Margaritaville - oops they were a day too late! Being friends, we of course rubbed it in just a little!! We first met Brett and Jill, who have a beautiful sailboat Muircu (I know, we're actually friends with some snailbotters!!!), in Alligator River in South Carolina and then met up again with them in Belhaven and Fernandina, FL but they have been stranded in Fort Pierce with a broken motor since mid-December. Now that is a huge bummer - especially since they were supposed to be spending their winter here in Marathon in the marina next to ours!!! But as all cruisers do, they were going with the flow and had taken a trip to Key West by land yacht and stopped in on their way back to Fort Pierce. Over burgers and a few cocktails on the flybridge of Gypsies we got to catch up and hear the ongoing saga - we're all hoping that Westerbeke makes things right for them so they can get out on the seas again soon!!

As these things have a way of doing, the afternoon gradually slipped into evening without anyone really realizing it except for the drop in temperature. After changing into our "nighttime clothes" (can not wait until we don''t have to do that anymore!!!), we all headed down the dock to Docksides for a little dinner and entertainment. We sat outside under the stars and enjoyed more cocktails and the band - they weren't Florida Straits but they were lots of fun. One of the guys was playing a steel slide guitar which is a really cool instrument!! The band had harmonica and sax players jam with them, both of whom were great. Then the singers arrived - there's just something wrong with a guy who sings Lawrence Welk show tunes one minute and then tries to do "A Pirate Looks at 40"! Notice in the picture to the left of the singer, the 6'5" biker dude with the tats and cutoff Hogs Breath teeshirt playing the flute - have I mentioned you can't make this stuff up?? But even he was better than Popeye - I truly love the whole Marathon vibe of community acceptance which causes bands to invite locals up to sing, but someone really needs to tell this guy he can't sing, especially when he drinks!! We all had a great time though and laughed until we were sore (at least I did because whenever I laughed I coughed - still dealing with this flu thing I guess)!

Brett and Jill picked us up the next morning for breakfast before they hit the road and we tried to hit Key Fisheries for lobster benedict, Jill's favorite, but they have stopped serving breakfast. Bummer - but our fallback was the Stuffed Pig which was more than adequate (in fact it rocked as always). We ate and laughed out in the backyard at a picnic table swapping tentative boating schedules (schedules are always dependent on both weather and our whims) trying to figure out when we would next see each other. We're sure it will be soon - we're just not sure where!! Colleen gave Jill a quick haircut back at the dock before they headed off - she could make money that way in the islands!! We'll look forward to seeing them again soon - hopefully on a fully repaired and healthy Muircu next time!!

We are headed over to Adventures tonight to have dinner with Robin and Jim, the remaining members of the Gang of 12 that have not left Marathon yet, which I'm sure will be lots of laughs. But its time for us to start scoping out the weather, trip planning and generally getting the boat ready to take off again. Marathon has been absolutely great and tons of fun, but its almost time for us to toss off the lines and head to new adventures. Adventure and a spirit of wanderlust are after all why we left our old lives for this wonderful life of cruising!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Troubadour Returns to Margaritaville

According to the locals (called Conchs) in Key West (also called Cayo Hueso), just about ten years ago, Jimmy Buffett popped into his Key West Margaritaville restaurant and treated the folks to an impromptu concert much to the joy and amazement of those who happened to be at the bar at that moment. Why is this relevant for our blog you might ask - well Jimmy happened to make a reappearance last night and the Gypsies just happened to be in the crowd!!! Read on....

Tammy here....

A lot has happened down here in sunny south Florida since our last blog so I'll backtrack for a minute - besides if I told you now how totally cool it was to see Jimmy in such a small intimate setting, you might not finish reading the blog.... Last Sunday night was the last time the Gang of 12 was together since Tide Hiker, Rickshaw and September Song have since left Marathon to head up the west coast of Florida. Our last night together started with a book/video swap and cocktail party on Rickshaw - there are always cocktails involved!!! Books are a very valuable commodity on cruising boats and space is at a premium so books are freely and frequently swapped around - now Gypsies happens to have three cases of books on board but we're always up for swapping for new ones to make our "stash" last longer. One of the great things I've found about this cruising life is that I have time to read books I've always wanted to read but never had time to while we were work slaves in our prior lives (that includes not just the classics but biographies, history and stuff like all the Alex Rutledge and Travis McGee novels!) So anyways, back to the cocktail party - we watched a beautiful sunset as we drank wine and munched on app's. Then it was time to migrate down the dock to Docksides Bar and Grill for an evening of dancing and festivities while listening to the Florida Straits band. The drinks and dancing lasted well into the night and we parted knowing that we'd see everyone again in a couple weeks up at the DeFever rendezvous in Useppa Island!

Monday was a day of rest - while Colleen and John went for a bike ride, Doug and I went for a long kayak up around Boot Key Harbor and Sister Creek. We saw unbelievable birds and sea turtles and even almost got upended by a manatee who swam right by our kayaks! We fought a 20 knot wind in our face on the way back but it was an amazing trip!

Tuesday morning we were up early (must have been the anticipation because I was too excited to sleep the night before - like the kid in the Disney commercial!) and hitched a ride on the local transit bus down to Key West. A number of our favorite musicians were playing (Scott Kirby and the Massacoustics in particular) so we were looking forward to a three day musical/drinking binge - all I can say is mission accomplished!!! We got to Key West around 9:30 am and by 10:00 we had beers in our hands and by 10:30 we were at Schooner Wharf enjoying the first happy hour of their day (they have 2 - one from 7 am-noon and the other from 5-7 pm - now that's cool I don't care who you are!!) It was Michael McCloud's day off but we were entertained not only by Raven and a guy we call Bubba Lowballs (don't ask!), but also by the people and dogs all around us - you just can't make this stuff up!!!

The Red Baron?

Can we share in what he's on?

From the Wharf we bar hopped our way through Duval Street and ultimately wound up back at the hotel with time enough to change before heading out for drinks/music - part deux. We headed down to the Sunset Pier which is by Mallory Square to hear Andy and Matt Thompson (the Massacoustics) play - they are both incredibly talented musicians who we first heard down in Key West over 10 years ago. With the sun setting in the background and the music hopping, we tossed back a couple coldies and realized we were about as close to heaven as it gets!! A group of Canadiens combined with a few very "interesting" shall we say locals kept us as entertained as the band - unfortunately it was too dark for pictures and besides, I had forgotten my camera - oops! As the last chords of the Massacoustics faded into the Key West sunset, we were off to the next spot - the night was far from over.

Next it was on to Margaritaville to hear our good friends Scott Kirby and Dave Edmisten play from 9:30-11:30 pm - music/drinking part trois. While we ate cheeseburgers in paradise, we got to hear Scott play more Buffett tunes than I think I've ever heard him play - I guess it was a nod to the guy who owns the place! They were both amazing as always - I love to watch truly talented musicians who care so much about their craft! Dave was on the wagon which in Key West is a real feat - not wanting to join him, we kept the coldies coming!! We hadn't seen Scott since Xmas so after their gig was up, we all piled into Scott's minivan (yup you read that correctly - he says it's great for all his speakers and equipment, but we think he secretly really likes it!!) and made our way to Louie's Backyard for drinks part quatre! While Colleen played relationship counselor at the corner of the bar (to a man and woman who seriously sounded like they needed it and then some- yet again you can't make this stuff up!), over several cocktails we got caught up on life in KW as well as Scott's new music that he wrote when he was back in NH for a couple weeks. The afterdeck at Louie's is the quintessential after hours bar - it sits right out over the water and the only music you hear as you relax and unwind with cocktails is the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and gulls calling to each other - I guess that's why we usually find ourselves there to close out the day whenever we are in KW!!

The next morning came bright and early but while John caught some extra sack time, Colleen, Doug and I headed out to Pepe's for breakfast mimosas!! It's never too early to start the mornings off right in Key West. After breakfast we headed back up Duval Street and wound up at Paradise Tattoo - Doug and I couldn't resist (and we only had one mimosa!!) We think they came out pretty cool!

Tammy's right ankle

Doug's left forearm

After that we met the other Gypsies at Schooner Wharf where we self-medicated the afternoon away. Michael McCloud was playing so we hung there all afternoon in the sun - I can think of worse ways to while away an afternoon! Michael is not only a good musician but he is a very funny guy so he had us laughing most of the time - his dog, Cinderella, is just too cute and was photographed much more than Michael! Orders of Caribbean wings and buckets of beers later, it was time to head over to the sunset pier again for the Massacoustics where we were meeting up with Scott.

Michael McCloud and Cinderella


Meanwhile, Scott had called to share with us a rumor that JB might be in town and might just be playing at Margaritaville the next night - Scott was in the know because he had been called to ask if he would mind "sharing the stage". We had planned on leaving the next morning, but our plans changed instantly!

Anyways, Scott's wife Michelle showed up at the pier as well so a real party ensued - she hadn't realized "the boat people" (as she calls us) were in town (who did she think had kept her husband out partying the night before?? There are probably way too many candidates come to think of it). We were glad she came because Scott had already told us we could crash at their place for the extra night! She promptly decided that Colleen should make gumbo again (we had it for Xmas dinner) since that was an appropriate pre-Jimmy meal! We finally made it back to the hotel in time to change and head back out to see Scott and Dave play again that night at Margaritaville!

The next morning the Gypsies arrived at Chez Kirby bright and early carrying our backpacks! Colleen got started on the gumbo while Doug and I went shopping for baby shower presents for my niece Samantha who is expecting a baby boy (to be named Rocco) next month. (Sam if you read this, the package is in the mail). After lunch and a few coldies at Fogarty's, we made our way back to the Kirby's where we hung around the pool for the afternoon. On the way back we saw a tree stump painted to look like an octopus, a guy dressed up in full pirate regalia that you could get your picture taken with, a guy riding a Harley with a live parrot on his head, the southernmost broken cleat (clearly a play on the southernmost point, the southernmost house, the southernmost hotel, etc) and lots of beautiful flora and butterflies - this is the essence of KW (and why we love it so much), you have true beauty superimposed with real wacky weirdness.
The Octopus Stump

The flora and butterfly

Anyways, the "gumbo fest" started around 5:00 pm - the Kirby's dog Badger was really the hit of the party (or he at least thought he was)! Although it was pretty funny to look into the kitchen at one point and see Scott ironing his shirt and John stirring the gumbo - had we not known better it could have been a true KW scene!

Scott had been down to Margaritaville that afternoon and the "rumor" was looking good - if we needed any more confirmation, Scott had JB's back-up guitar at his house to restring!! After gumbo and lots of wine, we headed down to M'ville - they had cleared out the bar around 6:30 pm to prevent people from camping out and drinking all day if the rumor had happened to get out. We hung out in a line outside the restaurant which quickly became huge - obviously the rumor had gotten around (you know, tell a friend)! John and the guy behind us in line kept running across the street to Jack Flatts to get us beer - Colleen and Michelle decided to hang out over there trusting that Scott would "get us on the list" - the rest of us were taking no chances! It felt a little like tailgating before a Buffett show! As tourists walked by they kept asking us what the line was for - we told them that our friend Scott was playing!! I'm sure he got lots of hits on his website today - too funny!

At around 8:00 the doors opened for employees of M'ville - how cool was it that Buffett gave priority to all his employees!! Next came the VIPs on "the list" - Scott came through in a big way as Michelle went to the head of the line with us in tow and then we were in!!!! The place quickly filled to capacity and there were a ton of very unhappy people left out on the sidewalk - luckily and thanks to Scott we weren't one of them. Scott and Dave played for an hour and were great but what a tough gig! As Scott himself said "it's kind of hard playing when you know nobody gives a rats butt about you - they want to see Jimmy!" But they rocked the place and got everyone on their feet!!

A quick stage change and then Jimmy and Mac came out - words fail me (and that generally doesn't happen!) But I'll try and do the night justice - it was simply unbelievable! We have been going to Buffett shows for almost 20 years but we had never seen him in such an intimate setting and usually we had never been close enough to really see him - we would generally watch the jumbotrons along with all the other drunks out on the grass at Great Woods or the bleacher seats at Fenway! But last night we were a couple tables away from the stage!

What was even cooler was that he got to sing all the songs he really loves, not what he "has to play" at his concerts! Woohoo - no "Let's get drunk and s..." He wound up playing lots of songs that either were about KW or that he had written there - the vibe in the place was simply just electric. People were standing up on chairs and dancing in the aisles around the tables - he and Mac played for a little over two hours and it looked like they could have played all night. He was having as much fun as we all were I think - well maybe not quite! He even debuted a new song titled "We've got things to Drink About" which can be seen on YouTube!! I knew we loved KW but this was super special - just the other day, Doug and I were telling someone this would be the first year we didn't see Buffett...guess it will just have to be next year (unless we happen to run into him in the islands - what, stranger things have happened!!)

As if the show wasn't enough, Scott, Dave, Doug and I wound up at Louie's - duh, you should have seen that coming! Then as if on cue, who walks in but Mac McAnally - Jimmy wasn't there but I'm not sure frankly if my heart could have taken it. JL, Jimmy's man in KW who Scott knows well, followed shortly thereafter with a bunch of JB's roadies. Did I mention that Louie's is our favorite after hours bar - we obviously aren't alone!! Both Jimmy and Scott have written and sing songs about Louie's - Scott's is "My Cathedral" and Jimmy's is "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season" both of which are favorites of mine - coincidence, I think not!

Anyways, all good things have to come to an end - when we are talking about KW, it's usually because our livers are screaming for mercy....After breakfast at a little Cuban deli this morning and fond goodbyes to the Kirby's and Badger, we hopped the bus back to Marathon to see the cats. They were not too happy with us - we had been away an extra day and we came back smelling of dog!! Horrors! But after lots of love to atone for our sins, they are back to loving us and looking for treats! Tomorrow we are off again, this time just for the day - we are renting a car to head up to the Miami boat show (among other reasons so Doug can finally find his boat Crocs!!!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Search for No Name

I'm sitting topsides after a late Sunday morning brunch at the Pig...the sun is trying desperately to peak through all the clouds but isn't having much luck but at least its a little bit warmer than the prior couple days.

Tammy here...

On Thursday the Gang of 12 (Vicki and Norm - Tide Hiker, Lynnie and Rick - Rickshaw, Robin and Jim - Adventures, Stephanie and Bob - September Song and the four Gypsies) piled into two rental cars for an excursion to the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key. The No Name is truly in the middle of nowhere and if you didn't know where it was, you wouldn't find it - it certainly seems as if a LOT of people know where it is though, as it was packed when we got there at 2:00 pm! Not to fear though since you can take pitchers of beer out to the parking lot where they have some picnic tables. It was kind of like tailgating before the big game in New England (although in the fall not the middle of winter) ...we were all bundled up in sweatshirts and coats (some even had gloves and hats!) The wait was worth it though. We sat at a big table beneath and surrounded by one dollar bills which were stapled to all the walls and ceilings - someone told us there was at least $100K in dollar bills there. Felt like Foxy's except Foxy's has underwear stapled to the ceiling and's a toss-up! The pizza, sandwiches and pitchers of cold beer kept us happy!!

From the No Name it was on to see Robin and Jim's new home that they are having built on Big Pine Key. Robin kept telling us the whole way to the pub about the key deer that live on the island...we've been coming down to the Keys for many years and have never seen a key deer, despite driving 40 mph through all the key deer sanctuaries. We always thought they were like the manatees, just an excuse to get people to drive their boat or car slower, but really just fairy tales. Leaving the No Name Pub we actually saw a couple key deer - like the manatees, they really do exist and they are adorable!!! Robin and Jim's house was great - it is built to withstand hurricanes but sits right on a canal and has great outside space to enjoy the Keys ambience.

Friday found Doug and I on a pilgrimage to West Marine - we are on the other end of Marathon so about 3 miles later, we made it to the promised land. As boaters, West Marine has replaced Home Depot as Doug's holy place. Walking aisle after aisle of boating supplies made the walk all worthwhile as I watched Doug's face light up with pure joy - OK maybe not quite, but close. For me, I needed a little more of a reward which we found having BBQ and beers at Porky's, a funky roadside open air eatery on Route 1 heading towards the 7 Mile Bridge. We broke up the walk home by stopping at the Marathon Library's book sale - 17 books later (what, they were only $1 per book!) our backpacks were full and we trudged on home.

Saturday was another overcast, cool and windy day....bummer. But no worries - lunch at Docksides and on to the Pigeon Island Art Festival that was held at the community park in Marathon. We walked up but ran into Lynnie, and the Adventures and September Song crews. Not that we need any more art (most of what we own is in storage and the boat is pretty full), but it was a lot of fun to walk around and see all the different artwork and jewelry. We found ourselves eating funnel cakes and drinking beer watching the bands for the afternoon - Rocketman, the Florida Straits and Danny Sullivan (all of our own Docksides Bar and Grill fame) played in the big amphitheater and provided a great afternoon of entertainment.

After a great dinner last night we devoured a carrot cake Colleen had made and broke out our last bottle of desert wine...WOW, after surviving on boxed bladders of wine most of the time, that was a nice treat! This morning the Gypsies hiked over to the Stuffed Pig - Colleen and John had yet to grace its doors which just wasn't right so off we went. I'm not sure I'll eat again until tomorrow!! Oh who am I kidding, we walked on to West Marine to exchange some things we had bought the day before so now I feel good as new and ready for our cruisers swap meet/cocktail party on the docks today at 4:00 pm, after which we plan on retiring to Docksides to hear the Florida Straits band perform all night. Life is good!!

Tomorrow may well be another waxing party on Gypsies before we set off on Tuesday to Key West for several days. We are taking the bus down and plan on seeing our musician friend Scott Kirby as well as the Thompson Brothers and Michael McCloud who are all playing down there. We're thinking a three day music and drinking binge is in order ....but who knows???

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Global Warming - Not Down Here!!

It's been a fun couple days around here in Marathon - cold and windy (OK not like in the Northeast since there hasn't been any snow - although there was hail reported in Marathon!!!) but at least the sun has been shining most of the time...

Tammy here...

The weather has actually been pretty unbelievable here - enough to make you seriously question the whole global warming thing (just kidding Al). Seriously though, it has been pretty wild down here - the wind has been consistently blowing about 20 knots out of the N/NE and on Monday night it was accompanied by a thunder and lightning storm of biblical proportions (surprisingly after a beautiful sunset!) Lynnie (on Rickshaw) clocked the wind down here at our dock at 42 knots and the paper indicated that Marathon had gusts up to 80 mph (yes folks that's hurricane strength, but since we're not officially in hurricane season it can't be called a hurricane and the winds weren't sustained at that level, so we'll just call it the "Big Blow"). In fact, we were trying to cook dinner when the rain had just started Monday night - it wasn't too bad so John, bedecked in slicker and nylon shorts so they'd dry quickly, decided to try grilling the steak topsides. Unfortunately just as John put the steak on, the heavy stuff decided to come down - the sky opened up with rain that could have wounded a water buffalo combined with whipping wind that was tossing the boat around like she was the SS Minnow - and did we mention the light show that had bolts of lightning sending tremors through the boat kitties as the thunder boomed around us (one good thing about being next to a sailboat in a marina is that it has a mast taller than we are which acts as a good lightning rod - made us feel a little better). Needless to say the grill didn't remain lit and Colleen rescued dinner as we all hunkered down inside to ride out the rest of the storm.

The next morning we awoke to a very tranquil Boot Key Harbor although that didn't last too long - the wind picked up and basically hasn't stopped blowing since! But we haven't let that get in our way - the other day we started a "family project" on the boat - waxing!! The four of us started at the bow with applicator pads, buffing cloths, a waxing machine and a drill with a buffing ball on it and went to work! Three and a half hours later we called it quits for the day but after getting the bow, the Portuguese bridge and the pilothouse all done - not a bad start although it'll take several more days before we get the whole boat done!! We shouldn't complain though since we have four people to wax our boat - according to Vicki on Tide Hiker, they only have one (Norm) and they have the same boat that we do!!! Last night over drinks in our salon, Norm was lobbying for a little waxing help - out of fairness he was saying that since Doug had 4 people to do the waxing, Doug should at least offer up a couple to Norm. Norm is a funny man!!!

While we were waxing the boat, we got a "manatee break" - I almost dropped my buffing ball as a HUGE manatee swam right under the bow of the boat! He was thirsty so we dug out the hose and had him sucking down water from the hose like a little baby. We let him drink for about 15 minutes before we had to shut off the hose and get back to work - our captain deemed the "manatee break" over - such a task master!! Our manatee buddy swam off to find the next hose...

On Wednesday we braved the winds to run boat errands and rewarded ourselves with the all you can eat Chinese buffet at the Panda for lunch!! I live for Chinese food so that was a good inducement...our captain knows me well! Yesterday while John worked on a column, Colleen, Doug and I spent the day at Crane Point which is a natural history museum and 63 acres of nature trails. What a hidden oasis in the middle of Marathon's strip malls, condos and resorts!! The museum deals with the geography and history of the Keys and Marathon in particular and also has exhibits on the flora, fauna, animals and fish indigenous to the Keys. We then got to walk through a native palm hammock, a mango trail, a butterfly meadow and numerous nature trails with an amazing variety of native trees and flowers, not to mention spiders, geckos, butterflies and dragonflies. The highlight though had to be seeing a hummingbird as it feasted on the nectar of one of the flowering bushes. I have never seen a hummingbird live before and it was unbelievable - it was green with some red around the tail, tiny and its wings moved at just about the speed of sound (at least that's what it looked like!!) - what an amazing treat!! We also walked through an early Bahamian settler's house which has been preserved and saw the Crane residence - the Cranes had bought the land in the early 50s and instead of selling off portions of it for development, they recognized its beauty and preserved it in its natural state. Some of the trails led along the Florida Bay and out to a point where bird sanctuaries and rookeries stood off the coast. It was truly a spectacular place to visit!
The hummingbird

A dragonfly

An orange butterfly

A black and white butterfly

One of the big spiders

The Blackbead Tree

Wild Orchids

The Autograph Tree

A sinkhole where early settlers got fresh water

A rookery just off the shoreline

The roots of a Black Mangrove reaching up to get air

As if we hadn't walked enough for the day, we decided to try out The Fisheries restaurant for a late lunch - it is a great little clam shack-like place down past the Stuffed Pig on the Florida Bay side of Marathon. We placed our order at the window (Doug got a lobster reuben which was one of their specialties and it rocked!) and proceeded up to the Fish Tank for a few coldies - with the wind humming, we definitely felt like we were living on the edge! The bartender said that he had been there Monday night through the lightning and wind and that customers had been sitting down on the floor behind the bar as the wind whipped through the plastic window coverings throwing things from the bar around everywhere - glad we missed that one!!
The Fish Tank

The Gypsies at the Fish Tank

Just as we were settling in for the night, Norm stopped by to say that the Tide Hiker and Rickshaw crews were planning on heading to Dockside to take in a little blues for the evening. Sounded good to us - but then again any excuse to party sounds good to us!! So we met Norm and Vicki (complete with cap and gloves - it was really cold and windy!!) and Rick and Lynnie down at Docksides to listen to the blues band. Turns out it was Lynnie's birthday - I knew there was a reason to celebrate!! She had treated herself to a pedicure that day and was showing off her toes for all to see - as a cruiser, little treats like that are cause for lots of happiness!! By the end of the night though, her toes were frozen and she was wishing she had socks on like the rest of us!!! The band played Sweet Home Alabama just for Lynnie as we all danced (dancing in crocs was a first for us, although my niece danced at her wedding in her purple crocs!!) - as the band said, they played Lynnie-yrd Skynyrd - cute!!! Although the heater kept us a little bit warm, the cold overtook us and we headed back to the boats. Not wanting to call it a night though, we wound up having an apres party in the salon of Gypsies with Norm and Vicki. The boat kitties were not amused as we had to relocate them downstairs from their favorite spot on the loveseat - there was no sitting upstairs on the flybridge last night that's for sure!!! It's amazing what you learn at these impromptu get-togethers - who knew Norm's favorite movie is "Spaceballs, The Movie"??

Lynnie's painted nails

Norm and Vicki dance to the Docksides band

The band at the Docksides

The gang at the docksides

John and Vicki toast at the apres party aboard Gypsies

Today is about as cold as it (hopefully) ever gets this far south - it's climbed all the way up to 58 degrees but with a wind chill more like 33 (with the 25 knot winds here on the water). So we've pretty much been hunkered down in the boat all morning - Doug has been down in the engine room hooking up a battery monitor (the work of the boat mechanic/captain is never-ending!) and Colleen's been reading the paper wrapped in a blanket with Puss in her lap for added warmth!! Today we are headed off with the Gang (Vicki and Norm -Tide Hiker, Lynnie and Rick - Rickshaw, Stephanie and Bob - September Song, and Robin and Jim - Adventures) for pizza and to drive down to Big Pine Key to see Robin and Jim's new house! Whenever the Gang gets together, you know there will be some fun happening (along with some wine and coldies)...we'll keep you posted!